Tracking a brighter future for turtles
  • Tuesday 10 January 2012

Why do turtles nest on the Sunshine Coast? Where do they go when they’re not here? What can be done to better protect them?

Those are some of the questions Sunshine Coast Council hopes to answer through a unique tracking program.

Senior Conservation Project Officer Julie O’Connor said council recently attached a satellite tracker to a nesting Loggerhead turtle on Shelly Beach, enabling its movements to be monitored for the next several months.

"We’ve named this turtle ‘Matilda’ and we’ll be tracking her travels via satellite for the next 200 days," she said.

"Sunshine Coast beaches are home to a small but significant nesting population of Loggerhead turtles and council’s involvement in this tracking program is in response to the need to protect an endangered species and support a community that is passionate about doing so."

For the past five years council has teamed up with local volunteers from the Sunshine Coast ‘TurtleCare’ group to work in partnership with the Queensland Marine Turtle Conservation Program. Ms O’Connor said this latest initiative would reveal information vital to the future of the species.

"The Loggerhead turtle is classified as ‘endangered’ under State and Federal legislation and is also listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)," she said.

"Very little is known about the origin and movements of the Sunshine Coast nesting turtles and they face a wide variety of threats at all stages of the lifecycle.

"While Australia has one of the best records in the world of protecting marine turtles it is important to be able to identify other parts of their range to ensure global protection efforts are focused on the areas of most concern.

"Nesting Loggerhead turtles usually arrive on our beaches around November and spend a couple of months here but we’re currently uncertain as to whether they live in Vanuatu, Moreton Bay or further north in Queensland during the rest of the year.

"Tracking ‘Matilda’s’ movements will reveal a lot of unknowns about her species and enable us to improve our efforts to protect them."

The Sunshine Coast’s nesting Loggerhead turtles normally nest every third year and lay an average of 127 eggs every 10 to 14 days at least four times during a season.